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Outreach to the Needy from St. John the Evangelist Church + Orinda, CA

by Fr. George Washburn

In the last two years St. John the Evangelist Antiochian Orthodox Church in Orinda, CA has engaged in several new forms of outreach to needy people. In each case we have learned that when we respond to God’s love shed abroad in our hearts by Christ (Rom. 5:5), we receive back both anticipated and unanticipated dividends from the Lord Himself… and those we serve!

1. Project Mexico: For two summers in a row teams of adults and kids from our parish have spent a week at St. Innocent Orphanage and built a simple new home for a poor family.

2. Dorothy Day House: We partner with the local Catholic Worker movement to serve Saturday morning breakfasts to homeless men in two locations in Berkeley.

3. Wardrobe for Opportunity: We collected used but still usable clothing; forwarding the best to a ministry to people who can use help to dress for the workplace and sending the rest to thrift stores.

4. Contra Costa Food Bank: The lobby of our church and our preschool usually has a donation barrel apiece for dry and canned food for needy families and retirees in our area.

5. Orinda Community Garden: 3,200 square feet of weedy hillside was fenced off in 2010 and turned into an organic garden producing vegetables for donation, mostly the Food Bank.

6. Christmas Care Packages: Our youth have been collecting funds and buying necessaries (caps, gloves, socks, personal hygiene items), assembling care packages, and distributing them to more than 100 local homeless each Christmas.

7. Adopt a Family: The Sunday School adopts a needy family each Christmas and raises funds to supply appropriate gifts for each member of the family.

Our belief is that the endless flow of Jesus talk, sometimes contradicted by un-Jesus-like action, turns our young people off to the faith. By contrast, getting them directly involved in the joy of passing on God’s love to others opens the door to a lifetime of adult choice that are indispensible to authentic faith. As our patron saint, John the Evangelist put it in his epistle:

“But whosoever has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17)

Author: Fr. George Washburn, formerly assistant pastor at Sts. Peter and Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church, Ben Lomond, Ca is in his 6th year at St. John the Evangelist AOC, Orinda, Ca. He and Kh. Suzanne have four children and three grandchildren…so far!